Newcastle United's Fixture Gap

Following Newcastle United’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea last weekend, they are faced with an 18-day fixture gap, due to being knocked out of the FA Cup and Manchester City’s involvement in the League Cup final which has resulted in a rescheduling of that match. In response to this lengthy absence from the pitch, Newcastle bosses have decided to send the squad to La Manga Training Camp in Southern Spain, a resort favoured by the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Warm weather training mid-season is a method that has been employed by many clubs over the years, and is a regular occurrence for top European sides during their winter break, such as Bayern Munich jetting off to the United Arab Emirates over the Bundesliga’s month-long break.

It can be seen as a period where a squad can revitalise themselves and push on in the following matches, after some much-needed rest and recuperation. However, it can also be interpreted as a dangerous tool, where players slacken off and do not train with the same intensity due to the lack of competitive fixtures and favourable weather conditions.

This is a worry for many United fans as it could be seen as a reward to the players, despite languishing in the relegation zone, therefore making a reward would wholly undeserved. Many fans have been calling for hard work to be put in at the club’s Benton training ground instead of abroad, in order to give the players a harsh reality check ahead of the mammoth task they face to retain their Premier League status for next year.

If the warm weather training does prove to be beneficial, it will have been a masterstroke by the Board, butĀ if the team return from Spain much like the side that performed so inadequately at Stamford Bridge, then there will likely be harsh criticism of the decision. It could be seen as an all-expenses paid holiday for the players and staff, and it is imperative that they use the top-of-the-range facilities and more importantly time to their advantage.

The benefit of fresher legs come the next Premier League game against Stoke on 2nd March could prove to be vital, yet if the team are not match-ready, it could be a very difficult, cold Wednesday evening at the Brittania Stadium, which will seem a million miles away from the La Manga Club’s exquisite complex. Mentally and physically the players have to be prepared to fight heading into the final, and most vital, twelve games of the season.

This will be United’s biggest fixture gap so far this season, topping the previous largest break of two weeks in November which was followed by consecutive defeats to Leicester City and Crystal Palace, by 0-3 and 1-5 scorelines respectively. This does not bode well as the reaction to a break in the fixture list was far from acceptable, and a repeat of this trend could see them plunge even further down the Premier League, which at this desperate stage would be disastrous.

It will be interesting to see whether the reaction from the players is a positive or negative one following such a large fixture gap, and whether the break at La Manga has been a successful one or not.